Akureyri the Beautiful
Out of all the Icelandic towns with a large population (large is relative) Akureyri was my favorite. The city sits on the harbor, and within a 10 minute walk you can find a mall, restaurants, an electronics shop, whale watching tours, gas stations, clothing stores, etc. We stocked up on food and fuel, and spent some time simply wandering around the harbor and taking it all in.
We caught the tail-end of an Icelandic graduation ceremony and I took pictures of the heart-shaped stoplights located in the town’s center (seriously… how cool is that?). Had the situation been different, we would’ve stayed here for several nights and spent some time exploring the region a little more closely. Due to time constraints, we reluctantly drove on, following the magnificent coastline, until we reached the northernmost village in Iceland, a small fishing village called Siglufjörður. From here, there is a single lane tunnel (route 76) that leads you west through the mountain towards the direction of Hofn.
The drive from Siglufjörður to Hofn was spectacular. This is not the time to nap in the car. With the exception of Þórsmörk, this was my favorite part of the country. Wide expanses of green pastureland, storybook-red barns, views of the ocean fit for a king… this was Iceland in its full glory. The drive took ages because we felt it necessary to stop every few miles for another picture.
We finally reached Hofn and stocked up at the local grocery store. We considered swimming in the public pool there, as it opens up to a spectacular view of the ocean, but opted against it and walked down to the beach instead. Much to our surprise, we found the same basalt stone columns we had seen in Skaftafell, but these were easily accessible and made a comfortable (and warm) natural bench to watch the afternoon light begin to fade over the water.
Our final stop of the day was at yet another hot springs, however this time, we opted not to get in – there was a beautiful beach right beside the springs called Reykir Beach so we hiked instead. If you’d like, you can camp at the springs there for a small fee, and there are 3-4 quintessentially Icelandic grass roofed huts open to the public as well.
Things were going just fine until we stumbled upon a nest of Arctic Terns and we had to abruptly turn back, as these birds are extremely territorial and will dive bomb you until you leave their land. The afternoon faded over the ocean as we watched the waves hit the rocks. As the Reykir campground was already almost filled, we decided to head towards Blondus and camped there for the night instead.
*We read in a guidebook that rose-colored quartz would be scattered along the beach at Reykir. This is no longer the case- we suspect that irresponsible tourists have stripped the beach of the quartz but we aren’t sure.*